Many unhappy returns: Grandmother, 84, hears Happy Birthday (and five other songs) on loop in he head ALL the timeCath Gamester first started hearing music in 2010 and assumed it was a noisy neighbourShe was diagnosed with musical ear syndrome, which effects 1 in 10,000 people over 65
She now hears half a dozen songs on a constant loop, including Happy Birthday, Silent Night and Land of Hope and Glory
19:43 GMT, 18 December 2012
We all know how irritating it can be when you can't get a tune out of your head. But one women suffers from such vivid audio hallucinations she has to start vacuum cleaning to escape them.
Cath Gamester, 84, has musical ear syndrome which means she hears half a dozen songs on a constant loop as if they are being played in the room.
When she first started suffering from the condition in 2010, the pensioner thought a noisy neighbour was to blame.
Cath Gamester had musical ear syndrome, which means she hears carols and hymns as if they are being played in the room
'When I woke up in the morning I heard music and it was “God save the Queen”. I thought it was next door because it was going on and on,' she said.
But although the mixture of Christmas carols, popular tunes and hymns sound incredibly real, they are actually being produced by her brain.
The playlist, which includes Silent
Night, Abide with Me, You'll Never Walk Alone, Land of Hope and Glory,
has been repeating ever since.
Cath takes to vacuuming to block out the noise of her condition
song Happy Birthday – every few minutes I'm wishing someone happy
birthday – I hate that one!' she told BBC's Inside Out North-West.
Luckily she does at least like the singer.
'It's a tenor, a man's voice and – it's a nice voice, very strong and loud and there's a background of music,' she explained.
The grandmother from Liverpool is not the only sufferer
but it is a very rare condition affecting just one in 10,000 people aged over 65. Mrs Gamester said she developed the condition
after taking anti-depressant to deal with the death of her sister Mary. She
stopped taking the pills but the songs continued.
Psychiatrist Dr Nick Warner, said he
came across it a number of times among elderly patients at his former GP
practice in Wales. He said that unlike tinnitus is has nothing to do
with problems in the ear.
He added: 'We found that an awful lot of people
who had hymns and Christmas carols. Particularly the hymn abide with me
came up again and again – about a 50 per cent chance.
'It's quite a reassuring hymn. You
have got to wonder if there is something generating this need for
reassurance when you're getting older. That you're not alone and that
However, other researchers have
speculated about whether it is the brain responding to a decline in
hearing by plugging the gap with music well-known to the sufferer.
Mrs Gamester has advised those who suffer from the same syndrome to try and get on with enjoying life
German composer Robert Schumann who lived in the early 19th century suffered auditory hallucinations
The Romantic composer Robert Schumann was said to have had the condition and reported hearing an 'angelic choir' singing to him.
Unfortunately there is no cure for the condition, although Dr Warner says sufferers could help themselves by talking about it, distracting themselves, socialising more and listening to different music.
Mrs Gamester resorted to vacuuming, singing at the top of her voice and getting angry and telling the music to 'shut up.'
However, over time she has found a way to make peace with the condition.
She decided to speak out about her condition to help overcome the stigma that is attached to 'hearing things'.
People with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia can suffer from psychiatric auditory hallucinations. These tend to be voices rather than music and are perceived to be talking to or about the sufferer.
Those with musical ear syndrome experience non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations – that is music or words that aren't particularly meaningful to them.
Mrs Gamester said: 'I say to the poor people who are
like me, don't worry about it too much, get on with life and enjoy
yourself as much as you can and be happy.'
The BBC Inside Out episode featuring Cath Gamester is available to view on BBC iPlayer until Sunday 23rd December
AUDIO Musical ear syndrome sufferer hears these songs in head…ON REPEAT
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